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Sport is a huge part of the county of Essex. From it’s cricket side, many football teams and past and current snooker players/hierarchy.

Barry Hearn, the former World snooker chairman and head of Matchroom is born and bred in Dagenham. Ali Carter and Stuart Bingham are live long Essex lads, growing up around the same time in the mid nineties. Carter owns a club in Chelmsford and Bingham lives in Basildon.

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The two most famous Essex natives are current and seven times World champion, Ronnie O’Sullivan (from Chigwell) and six-times champion in the 1980’s Romford’s Steve Davis. In 2015, upon announcing the new Home Nations Series, Hearn, Davis’ old manager, named the trophy after the Nugget.

Essex has never hosted a ranking event before and the Brentwood Centre were the chosen ones for this.

Since the inaugural English Open in 2016, we’ve had a new winner each year with Liang Wenbo, O’Sullivan, Bingham, Mark Selby, Judd Trump and last year Neil Robertson lifting the Davis Trophy.

Stuart Bingham

His overall form this season is a concern but I have a feeling Bingham is worth backing in his home event to make it two English Open titles.

Bingham is without a ranking win since 2019 which is poor for a guy of his class. Some will say perhaps he’s on his way out at the top level but I don’t think you can possibly rule him out. He has a terrific record in the Home Nations Series and other predominantly best-of-seven format ranking events.

Dating back to 2013, he made the Welsh Open final losing to Stephen Maguire. Four years later, he made amends capturing the Welsh crown in the second year of the Home Nations Series beating Trump. A year later, he won the English version, defeating fellow Englishman, Mark Davis. Ball-Run’s last triumph was another U.K. based victory, over in the Gibraltar Open, a complete best-of-seven event, over three years ago. He’s also been runner-up in the 2017 European Masters and 2019 Welsh Open.

Stuart Bingham

If you bring all the regular season formats to the table, best-of-seven, nine, 11 and 19, Bingham’s highest win ratio in his career comes in best-of-seven (67%).

As I mentioned, Bingham hasn’t clicked this season yet winning just nine times from 20. He did make the final group of the Championship league (another short format) in July though hasn’t built on that. You can forgive losses to the likes of Carter, Zhao Xintong and Joe Perry but losing in this format to David Lilley and Zak Surety (both most recently) is unlike Stuart. I heard on the grapevine, the table was majorly at fault in a loss in German Masters Qualifying to Ben Woollaston.

Bingham builds his game around his strong scoring power and he’s only notched seven centuries this season. In the last 10 full seasons, Bingham has pulled off 25 or more centuries in nine. There lies a possible problem. He has an awkward opener with last weeks semi-finalist Thepchaiya Un-Nooh but Bingham has never lost to Un-Nooh in a ranking event and also beat him in the 2021 Masters. He’s beaten the Thai in two best-of-seven Home Nations events too, including in this one in 2018. Tian Pengfei is also a notable threat to Bingham in the round after.

The saying ‘Form is temporary, class is permanent’ is apt for Bingham. You only have to look at Gary Wilson last week in Edinburgh, he had no form coming in but gathered momentum throughout. It will only take a few wins to get Bingham going and we know this is the format to catch him in.

Jamie Jones

In the same quarter, I fully respect Kyren Wilson’s chance following his run to the quarters at the Scottish (lost to fellow Wilson, Gary) but I was very taken by Jamie Jones last week in Scotland’s capital. At 125/1 and over six times the price of Kyren, goes into the staking plan.

Jones has lots of similarities to his game as last weeks winner. A determined character, some will say over tries, a busy player round the table, a real strut like he owns it, has a strong scoring game and is tough as old boots. Wilson has a tendency to lose his rag time to time but not Jones. His temperament is fantastic – one of his best attributes.

The 34-year-old from Neath has been very consistent so far this season which makes me think he’s got his game in good order. He’s already made two quarter-finals at the European Masters and British Open. Then last week, defeated John Higgins in the last 32 with a remarkable 4-3 win having required two snookers at 1-3 down. Talk about a never-say-die attitude, that is Jones is a tee. Unfortunately he failed to make a third last eight appearance losing in a decider to Un-Nooh, on the final pink. Fine margins.

Jamie Jones

I would imagine Jones has been working on his scoring in practise as so far this season he’s on 15 centuries and we are not even at Christmas. It’s a ratio of one century every 5.4 frames he wins. The whole of last season he only compiled seven. In the 2011-12 season he made his highest total of centuries of 20 so he’s well on track to beat that tally this season.

Jones opens his campaign in Brentwood against 1997 World champion, Ken Doherty and a win there might make Jones cross swords with (Kyren) Wilson. A player right out of the Jones mould. Jones has beaten Kyren in a previous best-of-seven (in 2013) and in the 2020 Scottish Open quarter-final 5-1, Jones joint furthest run in a ranking event.

To be frank, Jones’ record in the Home Nations events bar that run in Scotland two years ago is uninspiring though this does look prime time to keep Jones on side with his gander firmly up. I believe the Welsh Warrior will win a ranking event sooner rather than later, he’s too good not to. You know with Jones he will be fighting tooth and nail for the cause.

Ricky Walden

My last selection is Liverpool fanatic Ricky Walden at 66/1. After a very good season last term, Walden has had a stuttering one thus far where he’s found it tricky to back up the previous 12 months. He did make the final group of the Championship league in July pocketing £10,000 however in the next four events only bypassed the last 64 in the European Masters (lost in the last 32), losing in his opening matches in the other three.

However, in the last month, he’s qualified for the German Masters in February and had a much needed run last week in Edinburgh making the quarter-final losing to O’Connor 5-1 where he lost three very close frames. On the face of it, it wasn’t bad form as Joe went onto beat Neil Robertson in the next round. He will take a lot of encouragement in defeating recent U.K. quarter-finalist Sam Craigie and British Open champion this season Ryan Day.

Ricky Walden

Walden has recovered marvellously in the last two years from chronic back problems, which slipped him precariously close to potentially losing his tour card. Walden ‘failed’ to make a ranking final last season but made four semis and lost in two quarters. He’s previously made two quarters in this event back in 2016 and 2019.

Defending champion Neil Robertson is the chief threat in Walden’s quarter but Ricky has beat the Aussie five times previously, twice coming last season.

If Walden can recreate his form from Scotland and even his great campaign from last season, he could win a first ranking title in eight years, no problem.

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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